Podgorica, Montenegro Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Podgorica, Montenegro

Podgorica, Montenegro 08/04/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, 2nd.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington. It's about a 9-hour flight from Washington to Vienna and then a 1 1/2 hr flight from Vienna to Podgorica. Do not fly through Frankfurt unless you want to claim your luggage. There is no baggage agreement with Montenegran Air, and so -- unless you are flying Delta -- you must collect your baggage in Frankfurt and then re-check it all.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of government employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses and apartments. If you get an apartment, you are in walking distance to the embassy. If a house, it is about a 10-minute drive tops. The city is very small, and you can get from one side to the other in 10 minutes or less.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are not many American brands here at all. About three different American cereals (one being Special K) and that is really it. You can find most everything you would need, though. There is no cilantro, so grow your own. The embassy places commissary orders 4 times a year through Belgrade, and you can order anything you can think of -- as long as it's in stock. Also, there is a nice huge market in Dubrovnik (about a 2-hour drive) that has things you can't get here. You can also order dry foods through the pouch.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Any liquids you can't live without (of course you can order them in bulk 4 times a year through the commissary). Shoes -- they sell them here, but they are much cheaper in the States. The same with clothing.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

No fast food! Almost all restaurant food is either Italian or pizza. Not a wide variety here. It can get old fast. Pizza is very cheap and decent at about 4 Euro for a large cheese.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not much. There are some problems with ants. Bats can be an issue, but they are not a huge problem.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

As of right now, you can only send out envelopes. You can receive boxes, though. It's APO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

It is available but will typically run you about 5 Euro an hour.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, and they are very cheap. The US Embassy has a small facility, or you can take classes from local gyms (I believe there are at least 3 or 4) for about 3 Euro a class.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

They are fine to use.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

No. There is a small home-church group that has been started, but none other than that.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Not sure about newspapers. I have seen some English magazines at the mall.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I don't know any and get by fine.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It may be difficult getting into some stores. For the most part, sidewalks are decent, and you can get around. I have seen several people in wheelchairs that seem to do just fine. Apartments are not wheelchair accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Trains do go to the coast, but I have heard it is so smokey you wouldn't want to ride it. I have never used buses, but I have heard that they are okay. Taxis are fine, and you can get around town for no more than 3 Euro.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Almost any vehicle is fine. Road conditions around here are good, so you really don't have to have four-wheel drive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Cable is available for about 35 Euro a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The embassy provides you with a SIM card, so calling other embassy employees or spouses is free. Otherwise, you pay per minute and it's not expensive. I think the most my bill has ever been was 6 Euro a month, and that is with using the internet connection also.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are vets available. I'm not sure of the quality. I haven't had to use them.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No. This is a very safe city. Use common sense. I feel safe out walking with the children at night, even without my husband.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There is no embassy doctor here. One comes from Belgrade about every 8 weeks, but she isn't really worth much. There is a local doctor that the embassy uses, but we haven't had occasion to use him. The local pediatrician is actually pretty decent. Her English is fantastic, and she is on call 24/7. I have heard from friends about nightmare experiences regarding some health issues, though. I would not recommend this post if you have issues until they get a doctor or a nurse-practitioner here.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

I feel the air is decent in quality. No breathing issues. It actually seems fairly clean.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Typical Washington weather. It does rain, though -- non-stop November through March -- so come prepared. Summers are very hot!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

QSI. It is still in the beginning phases with some issues that need to be worked out. They don't go above 9th grade right now.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None that I know of.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, but the local preschool is all in Montenegran.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not that I am aware of.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very tiny, and not a close-knit group either, as most people are single. This embassy is still a work in progress. They are still in the mind frame of being a single-person embassy. They need to get more family oriented. It can be difficult for families, as you can feel isolated if there are no other families here when you are posted here.

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2. Morale among expats:

So-so. Again, most keep to themselves, as they are single.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

I hear there are night clubs. There is also a mall with a decent movie theater in it. Movies are in English with Serbian subtitles. Kids' movies are now being shown in Serbian, so that doesn't help if you have children.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is, in that it is safe, but there is not a lot to do here for kids. There are nice parks with nice play areas, and two indoor play places for the rainy season, but there is not a lot else to do.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not aware of it. Haven't seen many gays/lesbians at all.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I am aware of. Men here can have an arrogant attitude at times with the women.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting Croatia.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Skiing, sledding, and any beach-type activities. I've seen jet-skiing, boat rides, parasailing, etc.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Truthfully, there are no local unique items except maybe honey. That is what they are known for. Don't come expecting to buy souvenirs for friends and family.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The countryside is beautiful. You have skiing a 90-minute's drive away in winter and the beaches an hour away in summer.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you are wise.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

It's been an OK post but I would not go back.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

rain gear!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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